off-piste safety first - title

Safety off-piste

The delights of gliding over powder snow combined with the exceptional mountain landscapes give an impression of freedom that is really popular with thrill seekers. Nevertheless, you must not forget the basics: Safety off-piste. 

The delights of gliding over powder snow

Freeride skiing has experienced a boom in recent years, thanks to the development of the equipment, with wider skis making the powder snow more easily accessible. The growing renown of international competitions like the Freeride World Tour, and films conveying incredible images of steep white landscapes and perfect lines, just a click away for everyone, have also greatly helped with this.
But Freeride, as much as it inspires dreams, remains a sport in which the joy can only come hand in hand with great care and safety measures suited to the winter mountain environment.

Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

1 Before heading off-piste: prepare

Do you want to know the real secret mountain dwellers use to stay safe? Preparation.
Before each outing, they carefully study their route, get information, from other practitioners who have passed through on the days proceeding their outing, on the state of the route, the track, the snow, etc. They check the weather, view the avalanche risk assessment report (BRA in France), prepare their route and their equipment. They leave nothing to chance. And they follow this golden rule if the conditions are not optimal: abandon, do a U-turn or postpone the outing to another day.

To prepare like a pro, you can follow this preparation list:

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Preparing your route

    Choosing your route means adapting the terrain's difficulty and the possible risks to your physical and technical abilities and your mountain knowledge. Also check that there is no ban affecting the chosen area.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Check the weather

    With the aim of preparing, you will choose a day for your outing depending on the weather, often a few days in advance. You must therefore check the weather each day to see if it remains stable, and if it changes unfavourably, postpone the outing or abandon it this time.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Always head out accompanied

    Preparing also means choosing one or several people to support you, individuals who you trust in the mountains, who share the same goal and with whom you can head off with complete peace of mind.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Preparing your skis

    ...or having them prepared in a store. Check the strength settings of the attachments (triggering of boot removal in the event of a fall), as you are going to want your attachments not to release straight away if you want to go fast on certain parts. Also check the quality of the waxing and edges.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Check the snow conditions and the avalanche risks

    You can find this information in the BRA in France (avalanche risk assessment report) on the Météo France website and in the snow information of ski resorts. The important thing is to make sure that you don't head off in conditions in which the risk is already high, or the snow cover is poor quality (frozen snow, choppy snow or not abundant enough). Beware, the avalanche risk is always in relation to the tilt of the slope and the local topography. Beware of areas exposed to the wind.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Preparing and checking your equipment

    All your equipment must be checked before each outing, especially your safety equipment. Check that you have battery in your avalanche transceiver, that your shovel and probe are in good working order and that there aren't any problems with your backpack.

On the ground: look out and stay safe

Once you have set off on you freeride skiing outing, you must remain vigilant at all times. Preparation isn't enough and does not guarantee your safety. The mountain environment is full of surprises and behaves according to its own rules depending on a significant number of different factors: the weather the previous days, the weather on the day, repeated passes through or indeed the lack of people who have passed through, the development of the snow cover, etc.
All the same, there are some rules and tips which will allow you to stay as safe as possible:

Joy off-piste: safety above all
  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    When you are about to head off, get some last-minute information

    ..from ski patrollers or mountain professionals.They will be able to tell you if a slide has occurred recently where you want to go through, or give you more accurate information on the quality of the snow or the avalanche risk in the place where you want to go. Precious information as they are often themselves enthusiasts who regularly pass along the routes you are going to take.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Don't follow tracks

    Without knowing where you are going: you've spotted your route but tracks branch off towards another destination? If it isn't yours, stop yourself from following them. They could lead you into major difficulties, or a route beyond your physical or technical capabilities.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Read the terrain

    No map will be able to show you with as much accuracy what you will see on site.The snow covering can change the topography of a place, creating hollows or bumps where there aren't any usually. A reflection can indicate an icy plate to be avoided, a ridge line or an unstable cliff edge.

  • Wedze's Freeride skiing safety advice

    Observe your environment

    What a delight to be in the mountains far from the noise of ski lifts and other skiers!It's the perfect moment to take a break and listen to the mountain.The noises of the wind or snow in motion are often very revealing of hidden dangers. Visually observing is equally as important: a creep (fracture line) is indicative of a plate ready to break off, a snowy heap on the edge of a cliff likely to fall down at any time.

The mountain is an environment which can be learnt about by practising with seasoned mountain dwellers and professionals. The guides draw their experience from a long apprenticeship on the ground with mentors who have been guides for them in turn, a parent or a mountain dwelling friend. Our tip to be as safe as possible? Call on a mountain professional and learn from them again and again.

The essential safety equipment

  • skiing properly off-piste - safety

    In the backpack 

    A shovel and a probe to be able to find and get the victim out in the event of an avalanche, and which can also be equipped with an "ABS" (air bag system), which allows balloons to be inflated which keep you on the surface during an avalanche.

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    On you

    A helmet, which will be the only protection between your head and the rocks which are hiding under the snow...
    A suitable outfit (high trousers or salopettes for example) to avoid the snow getting in.
    An avalanche transceiver, which transmits and receives radio waves and lets you locate yourself under the snow.


A good mountain local who is not accompanied by a professional will have a few extra accessories on him, depending on the outing planned, the weather, the snow conditions, etc., like: a harness, a rope, a descender, snap hooks, an ice axe, crampons and possibly for the more seasoned ice screws. As such, he or his freeride companions, will be able to get out of numerous situations like an abseiling descent, a difficult passage with ropes, a climb on a very steep and icy slope, etc.

Now you know how to prepare as best as possible and where to learn the safety rules.
Are you ready to head off in search of your greatest freeride thrills?

Joy off-piste safety


Wedze communication team

Wintersports lover